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Poinsettia.  Photo by joanneleon.  December, 2012.

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Jackson: 'Fiscal cliff' obscures lack of shared sacrifice

This is a classic case of what we used to call "ham-and-egg justice." The chicken and the sow are asked to contribute to breakfast. The hen lays an egg and keeps on moving. But the sow is forced to give up a leg. That isn't balanced and it isn't just.


Second, pay attention to what the lobbies are pushing in the back rooms.
For example, a group of CEOs has joined in a campaign to "Fix the Debt." They say they want to reduce deficits and call for more revenue (but not higher top-tax rates) and cuts in Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. But they are also lobbying in the back rooms to slip in a new tax break for multinationals that would exempt all profits reported abroad from U.S. taxes. This would be a multibillion-dollar bonanza for companies, encouraging them to move jobs or report profits abroad. It is a simple outrage that at the same time they are asking the most vulnerable seniors to "share in the sacrifice," they are angling to get the biggest companies in the world another tax loophole.
That isn't shared sacrifice; that's just shameless.

Kabuki quotes of the day.
"In fact, it actually promises to lower rates for the wealthy and sticks the middle class with the bill," he said in a written statement. "Their plan includes nothing new and provides no details on which deductions they would eliminate, which loopholes they will close or which Medicare savings they would achieve. Independent analysts who have looked at plans like this one have concluded that middle class taxes will have to go up to pay for lower rates for millionaires and billionaires."

"Until the Republicans in Congress are willing to get serious about asking the wealthiest to pay slightly higher tax rates, we won't be able to achieve a significant, balanced approach to reduce our deficit our nation needs," Pfeiffer added.

"After the election I offered to speed this up by putting revenue on the table and unfortunately the White House responded with their la-la land offer that couldn't pass the House, couldn't pass the Senate and it was basically the president's budget from last February,"
“As long as the so-called fiscal cliff looms the GOP operates from a position of fear, which is a terrible position from which to negotiate,” writes Erick Erickson. “The GOP should do now what it should have done back in 2011—shoot the hostage.”
“If the president is rejecting this middle ground offer, it is now his obligation to present a plan that can pass both chambers of Congress,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).
Speaking to reporters before the GOP counteroffer emerged, Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said that Obama was “willing to compromise, and he looks forward to concrete proposals from Republicans that address the question of revenue.”
Eureka! This is what progressives were screaming about in 2010, telling Dems to do this. Now it's somehow a new and unique idea.  I guess if they had done it in 2010, it would have messed up the set up for 2012.
White House willing to go over fiscal cliff if absolutely necessary
If Obama is serious about this option -- and we can't know for certain until it actually happens, but it certainly looks like he is ready to do that rather than accept a bad deal that doesn't hike tax rates on the wealthy -- it is significant. As I noted here on Friday, that is key to preserving the basic imbalance of the current situation -- an imbalance that leaves Republicans with the weaker hand.
Why the Fiscal Cliff is a Scam (part 2)
[GALBRAITH:] If, for example, [incompr.] suggestion which has been in the news, you raise the eligibility age for Medicare, then what you’re doing is privatizing it in part. What you’re saying is that people who have employer-based insurance or other forms of private insurance have to hang on to that when they’re 66 and into, say, 67 [incompr.] they hit the age when they can shrug it off and get onto Medicare. That’s privatization. That’s what it is. And I think that should also be off the table.
I like how Galbraith frames raising the Medicare eligibility age as a form of stealth privatization, which also has the great merit of being true.
A Looming Crisis in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid? The "Fiscal Cliff" is a Scam (Pt 2)
House GOP make their "fiscal cliff" counteroffer

The proposal, which is based on an idea offered by Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction Co-chair Erskine Bowles during that panel's deficit negotiations, would achieve $2.2 trillion in deficit reduction by cutting $900 billion in spending from programs like Medicare and reforming how cost of living adjustments are calculated for Social Security payments.

In addition, it would raise $800 billion in tax revenue through tax reform. Senior Republican staffers said that those savings could be achieved without raising tax rates, as President Obama demands.

Don't hear much about this anymore, and especially not from the vaunted leading progressive voices who, thankfully, championed the cause of the Katrina victims.
Katrina, All Over Again

Hurricane Sandy, if you are poor, is the Katrina of the North. It has exposed the nation’s fragile, dilapidated and shoddy infrastructure, one that crumbles under minimal stress. It has highlighted the inability of utility companies, as well as state and federal agencies, to cope with the looming environmental disasters that because of the climate crisis will soon come in wave after wave. But, most important, it illustrates the depraved mentality of an oligarchic and corporate elite that, as conditions worsen, retreats into self-contained gated communities, guts basic services and abandons the wider population.

Staten Island Volunteers Fear City Will Hamper Their Hurricane Relief Efforts

According to Farid Kader, 29, a Staten Island resident and a volunteer, the official identified himself as Ronald Cohen and said he worked for the mayor’s office.

“He told us, ‘we’re moving you out,’ ” Mr. Kader said. “He told us it was unsafe. That’s the word he used.”

After that, Mr. Kader said, the official ordered a Red Cross truck that was delivering supplies to the area to leave.

Reached at a cellphone number that he left with Mr. Youseff, Mr. Cohen told a reporter he would call back, but did not. Officials did not respond to several telephone calls to City Hall on Saturday and Sunday. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s press secretary, Marc LaVorgna, did not reply to e-mails asking to confirm the official worked for the mayor’s office and whether his message to the volunteers expressed the city’s position.

Mr. Kader and others said that they had no desire to fight with the city. Still, they added, the volunteers had worked hard for weeks to help people in the immediate aftermath of the storm when official city aid was barely visible.

“If it wasn’t for the volunteers, nothing would be getting done out here,” he said. “If they wanted to start a site on Midland Avenue themselves we would clap hands and walk away.”

Left-wing media has 'issues' with President Obama

"For the better part of four years, progressive media has had President Barack Obama's back.

"Now that he's won re-election, it is faced with a choice: Should the left continue always to play the loyal attack dog against the GOP, blaming the opposition at all hours of the news cycle for intransigence? Or, should it redirect some of that energy on the president, holding him to his promises and encouraging him to be a more outspoken champion of liberal causes?

"Already, there are rumblings of change.

"In the days and weeks following Obama's victory, progressive voices, primarily in print media, have made efforts to push the president on key parts of the unfinished liberal agenda - including climate change, drone strikes, troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the closing of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, civil liberties and gun control. . . .

"'Liberals in the media are going to be tougher on Obama and more respectful at the same time,' Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker's chief political commentator and a former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, told POLITICO. 'He was the champion of our side, he vanquished the foe….. [but] now liberals don't have to worry about hurting his chances for re-election, so they can be tougher in urging him to do what he should be doing.'"

Progressive media claims they'll be 'tougher' on Obama now
Given the rationale they have embraced, is there any reason to believe this will happen, or that it will matter if it does?

[I want to focus on this claim that media progressives will now be "tougher" on Obama, but first, an aside: Hendrik Hertzberg proclaims that they will now be even "more respectful" of Obama than they have been. Short of formally beatifying him, or perhaps transferring all their worldly possessions to him, is that even physically possible? Is there a reverence ritual that has been left unperformed, swooning praise left to be lavished upon him, heinous acts by him that have not yet been acquiesced to if not affirmatively sanctioned in the name of keeping him empowered? That media progressives will try to find ways to be even "more respectful" to the president is nothing short of scary.]
Over the past four years, they have justified their supine, obsequious posture toward the nation's most powerful political official by appealing to the imperatives of electoral politics: namely, it's vital to support rather than undermine Obama so as to not help Republicans win elections. Why won't that same mindset operate now to suppress criticisms of the Democratic leader?

It's true that Obama himself will no longer run in an election. But any minute now, we're going to be hearing that the 2014 midterm elections are right around the corner and are of Crucial Significance. Using their reasoning, won't it be the case that those who devote their efforts to criticizing Obama and "holding accountable" the Democrats will be effectively helping the Republicans win that election? Won't Obama critics stand accused of trying to keep the Speaker's gavel in the hands of the Tea Party rather than returning it to Nancy Pelosi, or of trying to hand Senate control over to Mitch McConnell (or, soon enough, of trying to give the White House to Marco Rubio instead of Hillary Clinton)?

Once one decides in the name of electoral expediency to abdicate their primary duty as a citizen and especially as a journalist - namely, to hold accountable those who wield the greatest political power - then this becomes a permanent abdication. That's because US politics is essentially one permanent, never-ending election. The 2012 votes were barely counted before the political media began chattering about 2016, and MSNBC is already - as one of its prime time hosts put it - "gearing up" for the 2014 midterm.

And it's not just in Europe. The supposed progressive movement is full of people who are part of the Anti-Anti-war Left advocating for the neocon/neoliberal regime change agenda in the Middle East masked as humanitarian efforts.  And the number of people who remain silent about it is even larger, even though they were passionately against it when a Republican was in the White House.
Beware the Anti-Anti-War Left
Louvain, Belgium.

Ever since the 1990s, and especially since the Kosovo war in 1999, anyone who opposes armed interventions by Western powers and NATO has to confront what may be called an anti-anti-war left (including its far left segment).  In Europe, and notably in France, this anti-anti-war left is made up of the mainstream of social democracy, the Green parties and most of the radical left.  The anti-anti-war left does not come out openly in favor of Western military interventions and even criticizes them at times (but usually only for their tactics or alleged motivations – the West is supporting a just cause, but clumsily and for oil or for geo-strategic reasons).   But most of its energy is spent issuing “warnings” against the supposed dangerous drift of that part of the left that remains firmly opposed to such interventions.  It calls upon us to show solidarity with the “victims” against “dictators who kill their own people”, and not to give in to knee-jerk anti-imperialism, anti-Americanism, or anti-Zionism, and above all not to end up on the same side as the far right.  After the Kosovo Albanians in 1999, we have been told that “we” must protect Afghan women, Iraqi Kurds and more recently the people of Libya and of Syria.
A favorite theme of the anti-anti-war left is to accuse those who reject military intervention of “supporting the dictator”, meaning the leader of the currently targeted country.  The problem is that every war is justified by a massive propaganda effort which is based on demonizing the enemy, especially the enemy leader.  Effectively opposing that propaganda requires contextualizing the crimes attributed to the enemy and comparing them to those of the side we are supposed to support. That task is necessary but risky; the slightest mistake will be endlessly used against us, whereas all the lies of the pro-war propaganda are soon forgotten.

Already, during the First World War, Bertrand Russell and British pacifists were accused of “supporting the enemy”.  But if they denounced Allied propaganda, it was not out of love for the German Kaiser, but in the cause of peace.  The anti-anti-war left loves to denounce the “double standards” of coherent pacifists who criticize the crimes of their own side more sharply than those attributed to the enemy of the moment (Milosevic, Gaddafi, Assad, and so on), but this is only the necessary result of a deliberate and legitimate choice: to counter the war propaganda of our own media and political leaders (in the West), propaganda which is based on constant demonization of the enemy under attack accompanied by idealization of the attacker.

The anti-anti-war left has no influence on American policy, but that doesn’t mean that it has no effect.  Its insidious rhetoric has served to neutralize any peace or anti-war movement.[...]

Just a reminder, video news segment from a year ago. h/t to allenjo.
Bradley Manning Heads for Trial; No One Charged for Murdered Civilians
Uploaded on Dec 14, 2011
Ray McGovern introduces a short documentary deconstructing events revealed by Wikileaks
UN tells Israel to let in nuclear inspectors
As nuclear peace talks are cancelled, overwhelming vote by general assembly calls for Israel to join nonproliferation treaty

The UN general assembly has overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on Israel to open its nuclear programme for inspection.
The vote came as a sequel to the cancellation of a high-level conference aimed at banning nuclear weapons from the Middle East. All the Arab nations and Iran had planned to attend the summit in mid-December in Helsinki, Finland, but the US announced on 23 November that it would not take place, citing political turmoil in the region and Iran's defiant stance on non-proliferation. Iran and some Arab nations countered that the real reason for the cancellation was Israel's refusal to attend.

Just before Monday's vote, the Iranian diplomat Khodadad Seifi told the assembly "the truth is that the Israeli regime is the only party which rejected to conditions for a conference". He called for "strong pressure on that regime to participate in the conference without any preconditions".

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

The Evening Blues

Mainstream Media's Sparse Coverage of Bradley Manning Hearings

The Mars Volta - L'Via L'Viaquez


Remember when progressive debate was about our values and not about a "progressive" candidate? Remember when progressive websites championed progressive values and didn't tell progressives to shut up about values so that "progressive" candidates can get elected?

Come to where the debate is not constrained by oaths of fealty to persons or parties.

Come to where the pie is served in a variety of flavors.

"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum."  ~ Noam Chomsky

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